BACKLASH by Sarah Darer Littman surprised me in the best way possible. After reading the synopsis, I was sure this was going to feel at best like an “after school special” and at worst like a bad sermon. However, after reading it, I’m happy to report that not only is it neither an after school special or a sermon but a fantastic humanistic exploration of what bullying looks like from all points of view.
One of the strongest aspects of Littman’s writing is her ability to take such a hot topic and within that narrative create characters you feel real sympathy for. She’s able to take a topic that could so easily feel disingenuous and instead make it compelling and fresh. It takes something we all recognize happens and makes it personal, makes it real.
The story mostly centers around Lara and her particular series of events where she is bullied by her former friend Bree. Her younger sister, Sydney, and Bree’s younger brother, Liam, offer unique and often a welcome sweet relief from the drama unfolding between these two families. The most impressive achievement is Bree and her relationship with her mother and the backlash they receive once they are outed as the bullies and the story begins to gain national attention.
What Left Me Wanting More:
At some points, because of the strong emotional weight of the situation, some of the characters felt less realistic and more like caricatures. Especially Bree’s mother felt a tiny bit forced and one dimensional in the way she handled and responded to their part of the bullying episode. I understand this specific story was inspired by a true story where a parent was heavily involved incident but she felt the least fleshed out compared to the other characters on the page.
I would highly recommend BACKLASH by Sarah Darer Littman, especially to anyone who might feel leery based on the synopsis. It does a beautiful job of telling a highly emotional story while creating characters you genuinely feel a connection to, both good and bad. It addresses important topics like cyber-bullying so take note if that could be a trigger area for you.